Pick up the trusty ol’ Baseball America Prospect Handbook, and it’ll take you a little while to find Craig Heyer’s name. Heyer isn’t among the Yankees Top 30 prospects…in fact, he’s listed as the team’s sixth-best righthanded relief pitcher. But that’s not to say that Heyer wasn’t attracting some attention this off-season.
Heyer was a legitimate candidate to get selected in the Rule 5 Draft, but instead went undrafted and remained with the Yankees organization. His progress had seemed to stall last season, as he repeated High-A Tampa despite a strong 2009 campaign there (4-3, 3.11, 30 GP, 72.1 IP). He’d turn in another strong season last year, posting an 8-4 record with a 3.52 ERA in 26 appearances, including 12 starts, and finally earned a promotion to Double-A Trenton to start the season.
After two outings as the team’s long man out of the bullpen, the 25-year-old righty says he’s ready to make his first Double-A start.
“I’ve been spot starting and filling in for the last two years now, and always slid in and did my job and did what I had to do,” Heyer said.
“I just try to keep the team in the game, and that’s what I’m going to try to do out there on (Sunday).”
Heyer made no secret of the fact that his goal to start the year was to make the Trenton starting rotation, although this will be just his 21st start over the course of his 117-game, five season stay in the New York organization. And although Lance Pendleton was a starter for the majority of his career, you may recall that he started out in the Trenton bullpen last season before finding his way into the rotation after Christian Garcia went down due to injury. And all he did was make the All-Star team and eventually find himself in Yankee pinstripes in the span of about a calendar year.
Lofty expectations for Heyer? Sure. But the first step towards getting there may just be getting a chance to get the ball every fifth day.
“Obviously, you always want to be a starter,” he said.
“But I understand my role. Like I said, over the past two years, I’ve been spot starting and filling in when guys have been moved up or guys go down, whatever the situation is. But I was definitely hoping to be a starter all off-season and the back half of last year. This spring, I was trying to get my pitch count up to be a starter. When they told me I’m going to the pen, I’m like ‘OK, fine.’ I’m going to be the long guy out of the bullpen, maybe spot start. It’s already happened in the first two weeks, so I’m happy they even considered me to be a starter.”
Heyer, who threw three innings of nearly flawless relief on April 7 to get his first Double-A win and three and two thirds innings four days later, says he feels stretched out enough to be able to throw around 65-70 pitches later today.
“For me, I’m a sinkerballer, so hopefully I can get through five, maybe more,” Heyer said.
“We’ll see how it goes. Obviously, Betances has some big shoes to fill. I can’t go out there like him, but I’m going to try to get through five, hopefully six if I can, and try to keep the team in the game.”
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com